20 things I have learnt in 2020

By the middle of this month we would be in the 20th week of the year and so much has happened from the time we brought in the new year.

The month that just passed by was the first full month of many firsts. The first full lock down month and all the baggage that comes with it. It was also the month which Global Alliance had dedicated to education and training with a myriad online webinars that were planned long before one would have imagined the shutdown of normal life. 

As I reflect on the importance of Training and Learning I look back at my life of forty years and especially these past 20 weeks and share some thoughts that make me feel I’m happy despite being in the sixth week of what has become the new normal. I’m convinced that the purpose of life is to be Happy and we have the power to ensure that nothing can make us sad unless we choose to. And even this choice of being sad can come from certain circumstances which we can deal with by controlling our mind with positivity.

I have picked up four aspects for each of the five months:

Gratitude – 

  • I am always grateful to the communities I have lived in. In my forty years I have spent considerable amount of time in seven cities. By live I mean, staying put for six months or more in a city. I have held strongly to my roots. I have spent half of my life in Mangalore and I was able to show my gratitude by co-hosting an event like never before in the first week of January in Mangalore. Knowledge Factory was a labour of love and passion. I could not have done it without the support of Roshan Alexander and Anubhuti Mathur – my precious partners at work.
  • I then travelled to Bangalore where my father is stationed to spend the day with him on his birthday. Ever since he retired in 2007, I fly to wherever he is based at least five times a year and ensure that I have either lunch or dinner with him on his birthday. These are little tokens of gratitude. They go a long way in creating a mind filled with glee.

Enjoy – 

  • Enjoying responsibly is paramount for a fulfilling life. I measure success by two yardsticks. The speed at which I sleep off once my head hits the pillow at night and the number of hours I sleep. While I’m not a fan of luxury hotels, I have just one GM who is a friend. Srijan Vadhera is a generous gentleman and he invited me to spend a night at the Conrad in Bangalore as his guest and what an enjoyable stay that was! 
  • Before the lockdown when I was not travelling to Mumbai or Bangalore, I enjoy a few moments every evening in my happy place next to where I live. This little strip mall is called Galleria. The time I spend there is always refreshing

Celebrate – 

  • I love celebrating others but personally am averse to celebrations centred around me. This is my way of staying grounded. To each their own. I turned 40 this February and I made an exception to celebrate by inviting 40 friends to a beautiful venue in Gurgaon. That seemed like the last party for most who attended because within a week the lockdown was in force. 
  • I also had the pleasure of spending the leap day with a couple who completed 50 years of being married, again in Mangalore. Celebrations have their own way of uplifting the mood and the mind. 

Innovate – 

  • I realised over last year that in 2020 I would need to be innovative and launch couple of online offerings at least. As per that plan we were the first enterprise in the Indian marketing communications space to launch an online webinar almost a week before the lock down sensing that this would be the way ahead. And in six weeks we have organised as many of these online learning sessions. 
  • In addition, our team has piloted an online aggregator of experts and a new product discovery platform. These are passion projects with a clear potential to be monetised. Check out mindmint.in and thenewproducts.in – they fill me with pride. Thanks, Ameeta and Gurbani for this. 

Saving – 

  • This is my proud and happy story. I was only able to start saving from 2014. Because as an employee I always spent first and then saved. As an entrepreneur I reversed the pattern. I saved first and then spent. In five years through frugal ways and a complete lack of greed I have saved enough to ensure there is enough for the entire team to sustain for six months. 
  • I also have learnt to thrive on a zero-EMI life. No greater pleasure than that. For this I am grateful to a talk I heard in 2016 by Dr A Velumani. 

New normal – 

  • Acceptance of the realities that we are faced with is always never easy. But to plunge head on into what life offers is an art and a science. An art becomes it evolves through practice. A science because there is a formula to do it in the right way. This entire lock down is something no one ever imagined. I have learnt to accept it and look at the positives. It is what it is, and one needs to embrace wholeheartedly. My life at home has been mostly a smooth ride thanks to the better half.
  • My personal mantras for the last 20 years have been to live a life of no desires and no expectations. This helps one to be detached from the materialistic world. I collect few things as a hobby, but I have no attachments to them. This ensures even in difficult situations that life goes on peacefully.

Helping the needy with no returns – 

  • My most precious story of the lock down is how a random courier boy found me in his contacts and reached out for a solution. I not only agreed to offer him an amount equal to his salary but also realised that he was not going to be of any benefit to me but I would still adopt him and support him until he was in an economically safe situation. 
  • I also got the refund of a trip that got cancelled and as a token of gratitude I decided to share all of it with a dozen lesser privileged people in different ways. This has more satisfaction than merely helping a maid who will come back to work or has worked in the past, which we all do anyway. No greater joy than from sharing with the lesser privileged.

Planning – 

  • My greatest learning has been about planning trips. I was supposed to spend the better part of April, from 12th to 20th in Spain and Portugal. I had a premonition that there could be a disruption of the trip and hence booked all hotels on booking dot com by choosing a premium for the fully refundable option. 
  • I also chose to book on an OTA (MakeMyTrip) because I realised that is the only OTA where I know someone, and should I face an issue they would be able to assist me. Right enough there was a need to cancel the trip and Ruchica Tomar came to my rescue ensuring a full refund within 24 hours after she got my request. There is a different kind of thrill when this happens. 

Teaching – 

  • When 2020 dawned, I was convinced that teaching is my passion and calling. I take great pride in teaching youngsters at SCoRe the art and science of reputation management. I am grateful to Hemant Gaule who makes me thrive on the experience by taking care of all other things. While I offer my services to the #PRSchool for a tiny stipend, the entire process is hugely rewarding
  • I realised in the midst of this situation that several organisations in public relations and corporate communications space needed someone to offer them some direction. So, I quickly put together a Reinvent PR module and offer these as one-hour sessions free of cost to one organisation almost every weekday. I have done 15 and I have another 10 to do including the likes of Google, Godrej, Gleneagles, On Purpose, Fuzion, Weber Shandwick, Value 360, Epistle Communications and many others. 

Learn –  

  • I have shared several of my learnings here but the one thing I had to adapt to quickly like millions of others was to smart video conferencing. Thanks to Aseem Sood, I have learnt the power of height + light on zoom call which he trained me through a video tutorial he did in person via zoom. Whereby he helped me look better on these video calls by ensuring I have the camera on the same height as my eyes and that adequate light is in front of me. I also learnt the best impact of the zoom calls is to make a point quickly and speak with short sentences.  
  • Lastly, I learnt how to be part of a project with 20 others in bringing out a book called Shifting Gears during the first 21-day lock down. It is available on Kindle for ninety-nine bucks. I am now a published co-author. All in all, these past few weeks have been gratifying.

I feel delighted that there is so much I have gotten to know about myself in the last 20 weeks, most of all that I’m teachable. We all are. We just need to open up. The bottom line is that the current life we all are in can make us happy or sad. I keep myself happy despite the gloom around. Because the choice is within our control and I make the deliberate choice to opt for happiness every day and learn as much as I can.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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